'You seem to be defending company and not people': Bombay High Court slams Centre during hearing on 'faulty ventilators'

Narsi BenwalUpdated: Friday, May 28, 2021, 03:04 PM IST
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Coronavirus in Pune: Prakash Javadekar promises 100 ventilators through PM CARES Fund |

Mumbai: The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court of Justices Ravindra Ghuge and Bhalachandra Debadwar on Friday morning lashed out at the Union government for saying that the ventilator supplied to Gujarat were functioning properly and only the 150 machines sent to Maharashtra were not operating. The bench said the Union health ministry was more concerned with the Gujarat based private company that manufactured these defective ventilators and not the lives of the patients.

The bench perused the affidavit filed by one G K Pillai, the under secretary of the Union health ministry, who stated that the ventilators in Gujarat were functioning properly but only the ones sent in Maharashtra were not operating as the staff there wasn't trained properly to operate the machines. He also denied the ventilators were supplied under the PM CARES fund.

The ministry further stated that it considered the explanation of the Gujarat-based M/s Jyoti CNC firm that manufactured the ventilators, that claimed that the machines were satisfactorily working.

"By accepting the explanation of the private firm, are you trying to justify or support the company or are you going to be alive to the fact that these ventilators are life threatening," an irked Justice Ghuge asked.

"We are sorry to say but it appears you are not concerned with lives of patients but with the company," the judge remarked.

To this, additional solicitor general Ajay Talhar for the Union health ministry said it was concerned for the people.

"But the tenor of your affidavit states that you aren't concerned about the lives? It indicates that you are supporting the company. You should have had said that we will look into the issue but there is no whisper about it. This is shocking," Justice Ghuge said.

Trying to defend the ministry, ASG Talhar stated that there is a requirement of proper training of the staff of all the hospitals. He further said that the Union's committee also inspected the ventilators and found the machines were satisfactorily working.

The bench then sought to know the details of the inspections as to which hospitals were visited and machines inspected. However, ASG Talhar didn't had anything to answer and sought time to respond.

"Mr ASG, there is a huge gap between what you state in affidavit and what you are submitting now. Your contention that you are concerned with lives of people is without conviction," Justice Ghuge said.

The bench then said that the major part of the Union's affidavit is focusing on the company's explanation.

"What will you say when 113 ventilators are defective? All opened and found defective. Not a single one is put to use," the judges noted.

The bench noted that the Union has claimed that the staff operating the the machines wasn't well trained.

"What a fantastic argument this is. You mean to say that you have given these machines to people who have no idea on how to use it," Justice Ghuge said, adding, "Don't you think it is the duty of the manufacturer to send a team or officials to train the hospital staff."

Meanwhile, the state goverment counsel told the judges that eight senior doctors across Maharashtra have prepared a report on the defective ventilators and have concluded that the machines are "unsafe for patients."

At this, ASG Talhar told the bench that the ministry would file a "positive" affidavit on the next date, interrupting his submission, Justice Ghuge said, "What positive will you file when your attitude itself is negative."

The bench has now ordered the Union health ministry to file an affidavit spelling out what remedial measures it would take in the issue.

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